Tank Top Arms, Bikini Belly, Boy Shorts Bottom

Minna Lessig
Year Released: 2007

Categories: Total Body Workouts

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I’m reviewing this workout after doing each segment twice.

General workout breakdown: This strength training DVD has four sections (described below) as well as a short warm-up and cool-down (3 min. each). If done all at once, the workout totals just over an hour.
• Tank Top Arms (14 min.) focuses primarily on the shoulders, although you’ll also hit your biceps and triceps and, to a lesser extent, your chest and back, too. Exercises include modified push-up, alternating front raise, standing shoulder press, plank walk out, rear delt flys, shoulder shimmy, triceps kickback (and then press back), alternating bicep curl, concentration curl in deep squat, and lying triceps extension.
• Bikini Belly (13 min.) focuses on the abs and lower back with move drawn from gymnastics, Pilates, and yoga in addition to the usual crunches and planks. Exercises include basic crunch, gymnast abs (the exercise which has inspired more than one VFer to wonder if she’s the only one with short arms…), walking plank, funky abs (think pumping your body on the dance floor, with “raise the roof” arms), ballerina twist, scissors, twist and drop, quadruped arm and leg extension, side plank hold, and boat pose.
• Boy Shorts Bottom (17 min.) promises to “perk up your rear view” with exercises like plie squat, skater squat (I’d call it more of a skier squat – in any case, it’ll warm up your quads), alternating reverse lunge, ballerina back leg lift, single leg squat, T-balance pose, bridge, froggy double leg lift, side-lying knee heel tap, and dead lift. The focus is on the glutes, but you’ll also hit your quadriceps, hamstrings, and maybe even your calves.
• Total Body Toning (15 min.) contains exercises working multiple body parts at once. In some sense, it’s a condensed and combined version of the other workouts because it hits all of those muscle groups again with slightly different moves. Exercises include squat & bicep curls, yogi push up (i.e. triceps or push-up with narrow elbows / arms), bent over row & triceps kickback, side lunge w/ lateral raise & hammer curl, curtsey lunge, overhead tricep extension (adding in knee lifts and then tree legs), stationary lunge w/ shoulder press, reverse plank (adding in leg lifts), total body crunch, and bicycle.
Minna usually works in sets of 12 at a pace that’s relatively quick but not rushed. She often includes one or two progressions (e.g. adding a lower body move to an upper body exercise, increasing the tempo, etc.). So, if there’s no progression, you stop and move on to the next exercise; if there is a progression, you continue straight onto it without skipping a beat. (If you’re looking for rests between sets, well, they’re not here.) She often includes a quick stretch of the muscle after an exercise or exercise series.

Level: I’d recommend this to beginner / intermediate exercisers with some experience in weight lifting under their belt already. The relative lack of instruction, form tips, and modifications do not make this suitable for true beginners to exercise or weight lifting, but experienced beginners working their way up to the intermediate level should find this program suitably challenging by choosing appropriate weights and modifications and by doing just one or two segments at a time. Fully intermediate exercisers may find this gives them a decent workout, too, by reaching for heavier weights and doing multiple, if not all, segments in one go. (If you usually do Cathe, P90X, etc., you may find it very difficult to make this appropriately challenging for you, unless you’re taking a rest day, recovering from an illness, etc.)

Class: 2 women, one of whom occasionally shows less advanced modifications, join Minna, who instructs live.

Music: a mix of instrumental and vocal songs, a few of which sound vaguely like pop songs. Overall I found it pleasant and not at all distracting. The music is soft in comparison to Minna’s voice, however.

Set: bright interior set with blocks of color on the wall and potted plants off to the sides.

Production: clear picture and sound, nothing too crazy in terms of camera angles, although the camera does tend to crop off extremities, including a few instances where it would be nice to see what the feet or raised arms were doing.
The name of each exercise appears on the bottom of the screen at its beginning; if a weight is used, the relevant advice (e.g. “heavier weights”) appears underneath that.

Equipment: at least two pairs of dumbbells (beginners might start with 3s and 5s, for example, while intermediates might want a wider range, like 5s, 8s, and 10s), exercise mat (if needed, depending upon your workout surface), and sneakers.

Space Requirements: enough room to take a step to each side and to lie down with arms and legs extended. Minna is usually pretty good at keeping her workouts compact, and this is no exception.

DVD Notes: The main menu gives you the option of playing the introduction, playing all, or picking your segment. You can choose to do the workout with or without instruction. Alas, the segments themselves are not chaptered by exercise.
Can you believe it: a Gaiam video that doesn’t have that long Gaiam intro?! I know, I nearly fell on the floor in shock, too, when I saw that. Unfortunately, you still need to have a remote handy to skip the workout intro with the gratuitous shots of Minna’s tank top arms, bikini belly, and boy shorts bottom.

Comments: This video should appeal to the time crunched, restarting, or stuck-in-a-rut crowd. Is it the most efficient, effective workout out there? Probably not. But it’s a pleasant video that doesn’t make you feel like you’re running a rat race and that won’t leave you feeling like you’ve been hit by a ton of bricks.
I have trouble not comparing this workout with Tamilee Webb’s I Want That Body, another video with approximately 15 min. segments focusing on the upper body (specifically the shoulders, triceps, and biceps), abs, and lower body (specifically the glutes). Some good qualities about TTA, etc., are that there’s some chest work (in the form of push-ups) and a hint more back work; it lets you use different weights for different body parts; it includes a segment with multi-limb / multi-joint (or “compound,” in VF parlance) exercises; the crunch isn’t the main element of the abs portion; Minna seems interested in keeping your heartrate up, too; and there’s some, well, less common exercises. In contrast, IWTB has more room to grow (with two programs of different levels for each area of focus), is more challenging (I found IWTB very tough as a beginner / intermediate – surely I’m not the only one!), features tried and true exercises which have been tested for their efficiency and effectiveness, is slightly less focused on appearance, and doesn’t have many, well, less common exercises.
Another obvious comparison, at least in my mind, is with Minna’s 1-Minute Workout. I personally prefer 1-Min. W/O over TTA, etc., because the other one is more versatile and flexible with its matrix and bank of exercises; it’s also more straight forward / less fancy with its featured exercises. For someone like me who can get prone to boredom, especially during what seems to be now a yearly ritual of restarting after an extended illness, I kind of like the unpredictability of 1-Min. W/O, too. (And, OK, I feel silly doing TTA’s shoulder shimmy and funky abs.)
Yeah, this does have one of the most unwieldy titles out there. (I do agree with those who idly wonder why a “boy shorts bottom” and not a bikini brief one – or even a thong. I guess the producers are trying to alert us that we’re not in the Firm mansion any more, Toto.) Yes, the focus on appearance carries on throughout the entire workout. Minna’s main form of encouragement, in fact, is reminding you to focus on your dreams of slipping into that tank top, bikini, or boy shorts.

Instructor Comments:
Minna seems even more comfortable in front of the camera in comparison to her previous videos. (That said, there are definitely some scripted moments, and once or twice even Minna can’t keep a straight face during her canned lines to accompany the, um, more innovative moves.) She has a pleasant, low key personality. Her cueing is sufficient, although she could stand to give a little more in the warm-up (especially in terms of direction) and to provide a little more information about exercises performed in the main workouts. (And yet I like it when she doesn’t jabber on during exercises or count out the reps.) She mirror cues.